Gruyères is so “perfect” it feels like you’re walking in a fairy tale! My favorite comparison is the beginning of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” when Belle is singing and walking through that quaint little cobblestone town. And, yes, this is the home of that wonderful cheese – so, stop here for a classic fondue lunch!
Why to go: Not really a destination for an overnight visit but it makes a perfect day trip. This medieval town, located in the canton of Fribourg, is built on a little hill and has beautiful views, cute restaurants, a castle and 2 museums to visit.
When to go: Any time of year is fine for visiting Gruyères. Cooler weather is more suitable for the fondue experience but the restaurants will serve this specialty year-round. The village is car-free so, if driving, either park at La Maison du Gruyères and walk up or park in one of the lots on the way up the hill towards the village. The town is also accessible by public transportation – train to Bulle and then little train to Gruyeres-Gare/Pringy. From there, either walk uphill to the village or use the local bus.
What to eat: Fondue is a must! The local specialty is called “Moitié-moitié” and consists of a combination of 2 cheeses – the town namesake, Gruyères, and another cheese found commonly in the Fribourg area called Vacherin. If fondue is not your thing, there are many opportunities to try other interesting creations made with this tasty cheese including meringues made with Gruyères double cream.
What to see/do: Wander around the boutiques filled with local crafts, souvenirs and specialty food made with gruyères cheese. Walk through the arched passageway to the 800 year old Chateau de Gruyères, where you can enter (for a fee) and visit centuries of architecture, history and culture. Other interesting museums include the Tibet museum which contains Buddhist art and the HR Giger museum. HR Giger was a Swiss surrealist painter, sculptor and set designer most famous for his Oscar-winning work on the movie “Alien”. The museum showcases this, among other Giger works, and is located across the way from the “Alien” themed bar designed by Giger, himself. Below the village, you’ll see La Maison du Gruyère where you can take an audio tour explaining the cheese-making process. Cheese-making demos are done on a schedule.
Interesting detour: If you’re up for a little chocolate dessert, take a 15 minute drive (30 minute train ride) to Broc where you can take a chocolate history tour at the Cailler factory! Cailler is the oldest chocolate manufacturer in Switzerland. Depending on the time of year, you might have a long wait for your tour. But the end of the tour makes it all worthwhile – final stop is the tasting room! There’s also a little café on-site and a store where you can stock up on yummy Swiss chocolate! Bon appétit!